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Abreu started playing in Cuba's top league, Serie Nacional, when he was 16 and was one of its best hitters by 2007-08, when he hit .295. As the league's offense spiked, Abreu matured, and he began to put up almost comedic offensive numbers. His best year was 2010-11, when he was the league's MVP and broke Yoenis Cespedes' single-season home run record by batting .453/.597/.986 with 33 homers in 66 games. In his last full season, 2011-12, he hit .394/.542/.837 with 35 home runs and led the league in batting, on-base, slugging and OPS. Abreu also became a stalwart on Cuban national teams, and BA ranked him as the No. 4 prospect in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He joined the exodus of talent from the island in August 2013, was declared a free agent shortly thereafter by Major League Baseball and worked out for teams in the Dominican Republic. The White Sox signed him to a six-year, $64 million contract in October that included a $10 million signing bonus, the largest in franchise history. Physically, Abreu fits right in with the Chicago's recent string of all-star first basemen and DHs, from Frank Thomas in the 1990s to Paul Konerko, Jim Thome and Adam Dunn. He derives massive raw power from his physicality and strength, with strong hands and forearms and the ability to hit balls out to any part of the ballpark. He wowed team president Kenny Williams in a private workout with his feel for hitting, not just his pure power. He has a simple line-drive swing without too many moving parts, at least in his upper half. His swing lacks much of a trigger and his hands come from a dead start, but his bat stays in the hitting zone a long time, and he has the strength to compensate. Some scouts worry about his double toe-tap stride and average bat speed, fearing they will inhibit his ability to catch up to premium velocity on the inner half. Abreu is just a fair athlete and well below-average runner who is tied to first base defensively. He should be an adequate defender there as long as he maintains his fitness. The White Sox have had success with Cubans, from Minnie Minoso in the 1950s to 2005 World Series hero Jose Contreras to current lineup stalwarts Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Vicideo. They see Abreu as the best of the recent lot and as a middle-of-the-order force to replace the production, if not the leadership, of the 38-year-old Konerko. Ideally, he would hit fifth or sixth in the lineup as a rookie, as the team doesn't want to put too much pressure on him. If Abreu sees time in the minor leagues in 2014, the White Sox will be disappointed.
A key starter on California's 2010 College World Series team, Johnson was a workhorse the following season as a junior, pitching his way into the second round. After signing for $450,000, he had his full-season debut delayed by shoulder fatigue then was limited to 17 starts in 2012. He showed he was fully healthy in 2013, wrapping the season with a five-game big league trial. Projected as a rotation workhorse, Johnson has a classic power pitcher's body and repertoire, as well as demeanor. His fastball isn't a pure dominator, and he sits at 92 mph and brushes 95 with his four-seamer while sitting around 90 mph with a two-seamer. He thrives with above-average control of both fastballs as well as his hard, upper-80s slider, a plus pitch that helped him shackle righthanded hitters to the tune of a .173 average and just two home runs in 324 at-bats last year. His show-me curveball and fringe-average changeup aren't where they need to be, though the changeup plays off his fastball well and has promise. His September trial taught Johnson that he needs to throw his changeup more. A potential No. 3 starter, his power righthanded profile fits in well Chicago's lefty-heavy big league rotation.
A prep basketball point guard who led his team to an Alabama state championship, Anderson also played baseball but lost playing time to a knee injury and basketball. Undrafted out of high school, he went to East Central CC to focus on baseball and started to come on in the summer Jayhawk League in 2012. He steadily climbed draft boards all spring in 2013 before the White Sox drafted him 17th overall. A potential top-of-the-order shortstop, Anderson has explosive raw tools and is adding skills to match. He's a well above-average runner and accomplished basestealer with a tremendous first step. That plays well in the infield as well, and Anderson has made strides by better positioning himself and learning to anticipate balls off the bat. His average arm strength has improved a bit since signing and should be enough for shortstop if he stays on his throwing program. He has an easy swing with below-average power, showing enough juice to keep pitchers honest. His pitch recognition remains understandably modest, but scouts in and out of the organization laud his aptitude and calm, confident demeanor. The White Sox hope Anderson can be ready by the time Alexei Ramirez's contract expires after the 2015 season and will push him to high Class A Winston-Salem in 2014.
Semien's father Eric played football at California, and Marcus followed him to the school and helped the Bears on a Cinderella 2010 College World Series run. He fell to the sixth round after a mediocre junior season in 2011 but hasn't stopped hitting as a pro, reaching the major leagues in 2013 with a two-hit game at Yankee Stadium in September. Semien is an average athlete who can make the routine play at any infield position while being a productive hitter. He repeats his simple swing with good strength and bat speed, and he's disciplined enough to get himself into hitter's counts. Semien's power is more to the gaps, and scouts don't expect him to repeat his 21-homer 2013 campaign. Still, he can punish mistakes and is a smart basestealer whose average speed will play. He has played mostly shortstop in the minors and can fill in there at the big league level, and he has solid infield actions. He fits better at second base or third long term due to modest arm strength and fair first-step quickness. His offensive showing as a pro has pushed Semien beyond his original utility profile. He could push for playing time in Chicago at second, short or third in 2014, and he fits best at third long-term alongside Tim Anderson and Micah Johnson in a future White Sox infield.
An arm injury that required surgery limited Johnson to 80 at-bats as an Indiana junior, allowing the White Sox to snap him up in the ninth round of the 2012 draft and sign him for $127,600. His first full season exceeded expectations, as he led the minors with 84 stolen bases and dominated the Southern League playoffs. He led Double-A Birmingham to a championship, hitting .368 with seven steals in 10 playoff games. Johnson showed up to spring training with just 6 percent body fat and showed explosive tools, including top-of-the-scale speed with sub-4.0-second times to first base. Once a slap-and-dash switch-hitter, he now hangs in to drive the ball more often, especially from the left side, and isn't afraid to go deep in counts and draw a walk. Johnson's hard hands contributed to 29 errors in the regular season. He has improved with the help of infield coordinator Ever Magallanes, and the organization thinks he'll be an adequate defender. If not, he'll move to center field. The White Sox believe his leadership and offensive upside will help him and Tim Anderson form a dynamic tandem in their middle infield and at the top of future lineups, with Johnson arriving first.
Hawkins back-flipped his way into draft lore in 2012 when he attended the draft at MLB Network's studios and celebrated his selection by the White Sox. The former high school cheerleader then hit 10 home runs (including the playoffs) in his pro debut before a dismal first full season. Hawkins ended 2012 in the high Class A Carolina League playoffs but wasn't ready for a full season with Winston-Salem. Familiarity bred contempt in the eight-team league, as opposing coaches picked him apart. As his confidence waned and Hawkins failed to adjust his aggressive, swing-for-the-fences approach, anything other than a fastball over the plate proved very challenging. Still, the organization kept him in Winston-Salem, further exposing his immature approach. Hawkins missed a month with a left shoulder strain but showed his above-average speed and arm strength all season despite his struggles. He has plus power, especially to his pull side. He played center last season but profiles better defensively on a corner. While he fits the right-field profile, Hawkins struck out in more than 37 percent of his plate appearances, so his hitting approach needs an overhaul. Scouts outside the organization were impressed with how Hawkins kept smiling and playing hard despite his struggles, and the White Sox say the season didn't crush his spirit. He'll head back to Winston-Salem for 2014.
Thompson's brother Klay is a sweet-shooting guard for the Golden State Warriors, while his father Mychal played 14 seasons after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1978 NBA draft. Trayce chose baseball and was a stalwart for Birmingham's Double-A Southern League champions, hitting two postseason home runs. He has a Jermaine Dye look and similar tools, with more athleticism and speed. He lacks Dye's all-around savvy, however, and struggles to make consistent contact. His swing remains too long, which leads to plenty of strikeouts and modest batting averages, and he hasn't realized he can still hit for power with a shorter swing. Thompson can blast tape-measure shots thanks to his leverage, strength and loft-oriented swing. He has improved at recognizing breaking balls but still struggles with them. He's an average runner and effective basestealer who can handle center field, thanks to graceful, long strides and good instincts. His accurate, average arm helped him rank second in the SL with 13 assists. Thompson should head to Triple-A for the first time in 2014.
Beck was the ace for two seasons at Georgia Southern, and coming off a strong Cape Cod League he was positioned to go in the top 10 picks of the 2012 draft. He had a dreadful spring, though, losing velocity and crispness, and fell to the 76th overall pick. The White Sox signed him for $600,000. Beck still flashes two plus pitches and an average third pitch. His fastball touches 95 mph and sits 89-93 with good life down in the zone. His slider, once a premium power pitch, now is shorter and shallower, but even in the mid-80s it helps him get groundballs. His changeup has become a weapon, and he can throw strikes with a show-me curve. Some scouts think he could rediscover his wipeout slider if he were to ditch his curve. Beck finished his first full season with a strong Double-A Southern League playoff performance, reinforcing the organization's belief in his competitiveness and big-game ability. If he doesn't get his old slider back, he could still be a back-end starter or middle reliever. If the old depth and power return, though, Beck could be a No. 2 starter.
May's baseball bloodlines are hard to beat. His father Lee Jr. was a first-round pick in 1986 and reached Triple-A with the Mets, while his grandfather Lee Sr. hit 354 home runs in an 18-year major league career for the Reds, Astros, Orioles and Royals. His uncle Carlos, a first-round pick in 1966, also had a 10-year big league career. May had an unremarkable college career at Coastal Carolina but has hit better with wood bats, both in summer ball and as a pro. After being criticized for complacent play in college, May showed scintillating center field tools in his pro debut and played with energy and the White Sox love his maturity and leadership ability. The ball jumped off his bat, with eight home runs in 206 at-bats at low Class A Kannapolis after hitting just nine in college. In the past scouts said he had enough power to get him in trouble, but he's a legitimate hitter from both sides of the plate. May has plate discipline and could be a top-of-the-order presence thanks to top-of-the-scale speed that exceeds even that of 2013 first-rounder Tim Anderson. He has rough edges to iron out on the bases, where he could improve his jumps, and in center field, where his routes need work. He has modest arm strength that is playable in center. May's debut startled scouts who had not been impressed by him in college, and he likely will push Courtney Hawkins to right field in the high Class A Winston-Salem outfield to begin 2014.
A first-team BA High School All-American, Danish had one of the best campaigns of any prep player in 2013, pitching 94 innings in Florida's highest classification without giving up an earned run. He signed for $1,001,800 as the 55th overall pick. Danish has overcome the loss of his father Mike, who died of cancer just after Christmas in 2010 while serving a prison sentence for fraud. Scouts love how Danish pitches with purpose and never gives in, often comparing him with Jake Peavy for his toughness, size and low release point. The White Sox compare him more with a pitcher they drafted, Daniel Hudson, because of the low three-quarters arm slot and sinker/slider repertoire. Danish's low-90s fastball features heavy sink, and his plus slider has late break. He got plenty of groundballs in his debut at Rookie-level Bristol, even at times with his developing changeup, which is below-average for now. Danish has enough athleticism to repeat his high-maintenance, energetic delivery, though some scouts say it features too much effort for him to remain in the rotation. Danish's slot may evoke Daniel Hudson, but his stuff says Tim Hudson, if he can hold up physically. The White Sox will put him on the fast track, starting him back at low Class A Kannapolis in 2014, but likely getting him to Double-A Birmingham by the end of the year if he pitches well.
Barely more than five months after first acquiring Jason Frasor, the White Sox traded him back to Toronto, from whence he came, for minor league righthanders Miles Jaye and Webb. Webb had entered the 2008 draft as part of a loaded Kentucky prep pitching class that included future big leaguers Robbie Ross and Nick Maronde. Webb had a spotty spring and his signability proved difficult to gauge, and he fell to the 12th round. He spurned the Diamondbacks and went to Northwest Florida State JC, where he struggled and went to the 18th round in 2009, where the Jays signed him for $450,000. He struggled as a starter in the minors, as evidenced by his 8-21 overall record, but he took off as a reliever in 2013, finishing the season in the major leagues. Webb attacks hitters with three pitches, including an explosive fastball that has late hard sink at 93-94 mph while touching 96. He has focused on a slider to combat righthanded hitters, scraping 85 mph with depth and hard, late bite when it's on. He doesn't use his changeup often, but the White Sox consider it one of the system's best, a swing-and-miss pitch he sells with good arm speed. Consistency on and off the mound has been an issue with Webb for years, but Chicago pitching coaches have a history of getting the most out of power arms. He has a line on a role on the 2014 big league bullpen.
While Chicago's big league team has a strong Latin American presence, much of it comes from Cuba (Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo) or other organizations. Sanchez, signed out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old, remains the best recent in-house product of the organization's international efforts. He finished 2012 in Triple-A Charlotte after starting in high Class A Winston-Salem, with a stop in the Futures Game along the way. Sanchez was pegged to play shortstop every day as a 20-year-old in Triple-A in 2014, and it proved too much. Offseason weight gain cost him a bit of first-step burst that had separated him in the past. Sanchez wound up playing more at second base than short, where he made 13 errors in just 52 games. He still has an above-average arm and soft hands and was playing well as a second baseman for La Guaira in winter ball back in Venezuela. Sanchez has little power to speak of and is a plus runner at his best, so he'll need to keep refining his short game and defense. He could wind up serving a utility infielder role unless he regains the zip he showed in 2012, but the organization still sees him as a potential regular at second. He's ticketed for a trip back to Charlotte in 2014, barring a big spring.
Mitchell has had an eventful athletic career, winning national titles in baseball and football at Louisiana State. His pro baseball career has two key points: his 2010 spring-training collision with an outfield wall that tore a tendon in his left ankle and cost him the season, and his swing-and-miss tendencies since then as he's tried to catch up. He has struck out in 33 percent of his professional plate appearances. Mitchell had a strong 2013 spring in big league camp but an awful season that included two disabled list stints, a .550 OPS, a demotion and finally a Southern League championship with Double-A Birmingham. Mitchell then hit five home runs to tie for second in the Arizona Fall League. Mitchell remains an above-average, explosive athlete with well-above-average power potential. He has an average arm but his reads off the bat make him best suited for left field. His future all depends on his ability to make adjustments at the plate. He tinkers with his hitting mechanics, goes deep in counts without an effective two-strike approach, expands his strike zone and gets out of synch with his swing. Mitchell's AFL stint gave the White Sox hope he will be more flexible with his hitting approach. He'll take his third shot at Charlotte, in the Knights' new downtown ballpark, in 2014.
Barnum, who signed for $950,000 as the 48th overall pick in 2012, hasn't stayed on the field enough for the White Sox to fully evaluate him. He has solid athleticism, but his limited speed makes him a first baseman all the way. He does have soft hands around the bag and shouldn't be a liability defensively. Barnum's value is all in his bat and 80 grade raw power. His swing is naturally geared toward left-center field, and he still hasn't really learned how to incorporate his lower half into his swing and pull the ball consistently with authority. Barnum has had trouble staying healthy, with a shoulder injury limiting him in 2012, then a hamate injury in March 2013, followed by a left knee problem in May that combined to delay his low Class A Kannapolis debut until June. The White Sox gave him extra at-bats in instructional league and were encouraged by his increased ability to use his legs and turn on inside pitches. If he can stay healthy, he's likely to start 2014 back at Kannapolis but could earn a quick promotion.
The White Sox scouted Bassitt somewhat by accident, seeing him as Akron's closer when he was pitching against Pittsburgh, where they were scouting Kevan Smith--who has been his catcher for most of the last two seasons at high Class A Winston-Salem. Bassitt never started in college, but the White Sox shifted him into the role in 2012 and he threw 149 innings in 2013. His loose arm and competitiveness helped, as did his ability to throw four pitches for strikes. His fastball reaches 93-95 mph in short bursts and more often sits at 90-93 with sink, though at times it flattens out when he loses his low-three-quarters arm slot. Bassitt lacks a wipeout secondary pitch. He throws both a slider and a curveball, though usually only one is working on a given night, and his changeup is fringe-average. His ability to make big pitches in big situations showed in minor league playoffs in the last two seasons, when he won all three of his starts and yielded one earned run in 19 innings with 19 strikeouts. Bassitt could be a back-end starter but more likely will return to his relief roots when he reaches Chicago. He's slated for the Double-A Birmingham rotation to open 2014.
The White Sox have moved Snodgress aggressively, especially considering that he threw just 100 innings in three seasons in Stanford's bullpen. Chicago immediately placed him in the rotation and he rewarded the club with 27 starts in 2012, finishing the year at high Class A Winston-Salem, helping the Dash reach the playoffs. He was starting for Double-A Birmingham in the Southern League playoffs in 2013, losing both starts to sum up a disappointing season. Snodgress has the mix of pitches to start, with a fringe-average fastball in the 87-91 mph range that plays up thanks to some deception, a hard cutter up to 87, and both his curveball and changeup flash plus. His curve, the best in the system now that Andre Rienzo has graduated to the big leagues, has tight rotation and good shape when it's on, and his change shows fade and 10 mph separation from his fastball. Snodgress struggled to repeat his slightly crossfire delivery in 2013, overthrowing and getting out of synch with his delivery whenever he got in trouble. Scouts didn't like his mound presence or body language, with some questioning his competitiveness. The White Sox still like him as a starter but likely will slow him down in 2014, scheduling a return trip to Birmingham.
Garcia played for five teams in 2013, starting with a bit role as a utility player on the Dominican Republic's title-winning roster for the World Baseball Classic. Despite the interruption of his spring training and the fact that he got only one at-bat in the WBC, Garcia made the Rangers' Opening Day roster as a utility infielder and extra outfielder. He played sparingly, however, and was demoted to Triple-A in mid-June before being traded in August for Alex Rios. After a short stint at Triple-A Charlotte, Garcia returned to the majors with the White Sox. He has exciting tools for the middle infield, with premium range to his right and left, an easy plus arm and explosive first-step quickness. That would play on the bases as well, but the switch-hitting Garcia can't steal first. For all his tools, his bat remains light, with an approach better suited to a bigger man that leads to long swing paths. A free swinger, Garcia has bottom-of-the-lineup skills and needs to be more efficient at bunting, moving runners and stealing bases. He's also more erratic defensively at short than the White Sox were expecting, with 11 errors in 44 Triple-A games at the position due to shaky hands. His bat is a bigger question mark and will determine whether Garcia can be a future regular or is set for a super-utility role, the latter of which appears to be the case for 2014.
The White Sox badly want to resuscitate their presence internationally, particularly in the Dominican Republic, and aggressively pursued Zapata, who also has been known by the surname Adolfo. They were tied to him before the July 2 signing period began and eventually inked him for a $1.6 million bonus, the largest in franchise history for a Latin American amateur. He has an unusual background for a Dominican prospect, having been born in the U.S. Virgin Islands; White Sox officials say his English is better than his Spanish. At age 14, Zapata moved to the D.R. to train and practice at La Academia and work with Moreno Tejada, the trainer who handled Twins prospect Miguel Sano. Like Sano, Zapata stands out for his size and precocious raw power. He's athletic enough to be an average runner despite his size, and he got a Michael Jordan physical comparison from one club official. Zapata has five-tool ability if he hits, though most scouts see his power ahead of his feel for hitting. His swing can be undisciplined and too geared for power, while the White Sox see a hitter who has time to learn that he's strong enough to punish the ball without trying too hard. The organization hopes Zapata will be ready to begin his pro career in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2014, though a Dominican Summer League start is possible as well.
Michalczewski may be the greatest sign that with the change in draft rules, the White Sox have changed their scouting and player-development approach. Usually, the high school players the White Sox have drafted and signed are toolsy outfielders such as Courtney Hawkins or 2001 pick Chris Young. Michalczewski does have a football background, which fits Chicago's usual preference, as he played tight end at Jenks (Okla.) High, helping the team win a state championship. Despite his two-sport pedigree, Michalczewski has a fairly mature hitting approach and a sound swing from both sides of the plate. Scouts consider his hitting ability more advanced than his present power, a trait they prefer, especially in a physical, athletic player. He was a little raw at third base after playing shortstop in high school but has the arm strength and actions for the position, and he runs well for his size. He had to catch up a bit to the speed of the game in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, but managers there liked his feel for the game and considered his $500,000 signing bonus money well spent. He should earn a spot on the low Class A Kannapolis roster in 2014.
Ortiz made his U.S. debut in 2013 and broke out, finishing the year in high Class A. He has a good pitcher's frame and has started filling out physically. When he maintains his delivery and repeats it, he can pump his fastball up to 97-98 mph at times, usually sitting more in the mid-90s. Signed as a 19-year-old, Ortiz was making his U.S. debut in 2013 and began in the low Class A Kannapolis bullpen. By June he was ready for the rotation and he earned a promotion to high Class A Winston-Salem thanks to his velocity and sink on his fastball. He also throws a slider that flashes average. The White Sox are eager to get him more innings even though he profiles more as a reliever. He doesn't throw consistent strikes because he doesn't repeat his delivery well, and he also is yet to throw a changeup. Ortiz's arm strength is tantalizing, but even the White Sox don't plan to rush him. He's headed back to Winston-Salem to start 2014.
Petricka has teased scouts with his stuff for years, finally putting it all together in 2013 after a move to the bullpen. Drafted out of high school in 2006, he had Tommy John surgery in 2007 and went to Iowa Western CC before emerging at Indiana State. After signing for $540,000 as a 2010 second-rounder, Petricka threw more than 250 innings over two full seasons as a starter, reaching Double-A Birmingham. More thrower than pitcher, he shifted to relief in 2013 and finished the season in the major leagues, finding confidence in the role and becoming more consistently aggressive. Petricka's fastball velocity fluctuates. On good days, his fastball features heavy sink from 92-96 mph, and he complements it with a hard slider that has cutter action and scrapes the upper 80s. He'll mix in a changeup from time to time. In some outings, his velocity backed up, sitting at 91-92 mph, and his slider lacked consistency as well. Petricka threw a few more strikes in 2013 but will never have fine command, and his control likely limits him to a set-up role rather than a future closer potential. He'll have to have a good spring to earn a return trip to Chicago.
No one in NCAA Division I stole more bases in 2012-13 than Engel (88). That's despite the fact that Engel hit just .236/.367/.301 as a junior at Louisville, with 20 hit-by-pitches accounting for a good portion of the on-base percentage. Scouts knew Engel was an elite athlete, an 80 runner who can cover 60 yards in 6.4 seconds. He combines that with physicality, with one scout comparing his body to that of an NFL safety. Engel just didn't hit in college, and the White Sox (with help from the Louisville coaches) set about adjusting his swing after he signed for $100,000. An adjustment to his hand positioning in his setup helped Engel get to pitches middle-in, and once he began seeing results, his confidence took off. Engel, who led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in steals, has the strength to hit for average power but the White Sox just want him to keep focusing on making consistent, hard contact. If he hits, Engel has the speed to be a factor as a leadoff man and defender in center field, with a fringe-average arm and good instincts. With a good spring training in 2014, Engel could make good on his Peter Bourjos comparisons, starting at low Class A Kannapolis.
Drafted out of high school in 2009 (Cubs) and again in 2010 out of Central Arizona JC (Phillies), Walker finally signed with the White Sox as their top pick in 2011, receiving a $795,000 bonus as a sandwich pick. He was a regular in Birmingham's outfield playing all three spots but wasn't ready for the jump, posting the second-lowest batting average (.201) by a qualifier in the Southern League while leading it in strikeouts (153), caught stealing (15) and errors by an outfielder (11). Walker packs speed and strength into his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame, though he has little power to speak of with his present slap-and-dash approach. He will draw a walk but doesn't fare well with two strikes and could stand to be more aggressive with fastballs. He's a potentially outstanding defender in center field, with plus speed, excellent range thanks to good reads off the bat and a solid-average arm. As at the plate, he can get sloppy in the field, and Walker needs polish even to reach a fourth-outfielder ceiling, which seems more reasonable at this stage. He could return to Birmingham, at least to begin 2014.
Jaye came to the White Sox with Daniel Webb in the January 2012 Jason Frasor trade. The Blue Jays had given the 2010 17th-rounder $250,000 to pry the projectable righthander away from a commitment to Kennesaw State. The White Sox pushed him to low Class A Kannapolis in his first full season, before he was ready, and he was hammered most of the season. He started 2013 back there but finished at Double-A Birmingham, earning the clinching victory in the Southern League championship series. Jaye's thin frame hasn't added much muscle, but he is stronger than he used to be and his stuff has improved from fringy to solid-average, with an 89-93 mph fastball at his best. He pitches with a quick tempo and flashes an above-average changeup with sink. His slider is surprisingly hard at up to 82 mph, and at times it's an average pitch with some late tilt. Jaye's playoff outing likely clinched a return to the Birmingham rotation for 2014.
The Red Sox gave Jacobs $750,000 to steer him away from an Auburn football scholarship, and he surprised scouts with how polished his offensive game was for a two-spot player. His 2011 season at low Class A Greenville appeared to be a revelation, as he combined extra-base power with 30 stolen bases while showing premium bat speed and surprising pitch recognition. But Jacobs' Greenville season now looks like the outlier rather than the harbinger of things to come. He's a .247 hitter in more than 1,100 at-bats outside of that year, and the White Sox picked him up in a July 2013 trade for lefty reliever Matt Thornton. He didn't wow his new employers after his arrival, particularly in struggling to hit for power. While he showed some ability to lay off breaking balls earlier in his career, he's struggled to do so against more advanced pitching, keeping his plus power more in the "raw" category instead of "usable." Jacobs has slowed down as he's matured physically and is just an average runner with a below-average arm, which limits him to left field. A return engagement with Double-A Birmingham in 2014 is most likely.
In a year when middle infielders Micah Johnson and Marcus Semien made huge strides and jumped into the organization's top five prospects, the White Sox nevertheless added significant middle-infield depth in 2013. They drafted Tim Anderson 17th overall, then traded for a pair of potentially dynamic defenders in Leury Garcia and Rondon, who came from the Red Sox in the three-team Jake Peavy trade. Rondon signed with the Red Sox in 2010 and had moved slowly before beginning to hit a bit at short-season Lowell when the trade occurred. Naturally, the White Sox accelerated him to low Class A Kannapolis and he struggled, with only one extra-base hit. Defense is Rondon's claim to fame, thanks to very soft, nimble hands. Assistant general manager Buddy Bell, part of a family with three generations of major leaguers, went so far as to say Rondon's hands were as good as any he's ever seen. His defense could get even better as he becomes more proficient fundamentally, but already he has an above-average and accurate arm, a tremendous internal clock and the mustard necessary to make the spectacular play. An average runner, Rondon was a below-average hitter when he signed and he remains so, lacking strength and getting the bat knocked out of his hands. He has the hand-eye coordination to survive offensively if he gains strength. He's slated to be Kannapolis' shortstop again when the 2014 season opens.
Mitchell opened 2013 as Texas Christian's closer, but its poor offense prompted his midseason move to the rotation. Mitchell struggled a bit with the shift, helping contribute to him dropping to the fourth round of the 2013 draft. He signed for $413,000. Mitchell offers two plus pitches in his fastball and curve. His 80-81 mph curve ranked as the best available in the draft among college pitchers, and if he proves he can throw it for strikes as a pro, he'll have a potential 70 pitch on his hands. Mitchell's fastball can reach 98 mph in a relief role and touched 95-96 as a starter after signing. If he commanded either pitch, he'd be a starter for sure, but he walked 110 in 202 college innings, almost exactly the same walk rate of 4.8 per nine innings he had as a pro. He tends to rush through his delivery and lose his release point. Mitchell's nascent changeup remains inconsistent and will be another development focus for 2014, when he will get another chance to start. He has a durable frame and should skip to high Class A Winston-Salem with a good spring performance.
Goldberg spent the 2013 season making up for lost time. The Ohio native started his college career at Coastal Carolina before a grandfather's bout with cancer prompted him to transfer to Ohio State. He had to sit out two years, one for NCAA rules and another due to a credit mishap that left him ineligible in 2012. He finally got his spot in the Buckeyes rotation in 2013 and went 6-1, 2.99. Goldberg's fastball peaked at 95-96 mph as an amateur with good movement, especially down in the zone, and the White Sox signed him for $10,000 as a budget-minded 10th-round pick. His power sinker played up in relief, sitting 94 mph and flashing 96, helping him get more strikeouts than he ever did as a college starter. The White Sox jumped him up to high Class A Winston-Salem to finish the season. Goldberg used both a slider and curveball as an amateur, both with power. The curve could sit in the 75-78 mph range, while his slider sat 82-84 mph at the Big Ten Conference tournament with some tilt. He also threw a changeup rarely as an amateur, which he'll need more if he starts as a pro. Goldberg has a chance to move quickly if he repeats his 2013 success and projects as a middle reliever in the Nate Jones mold.
Montas was yet another former Red Sox prospect who came to the White Sox as part of the three-team Jake Peavy trade at the 2013 trade deadline. Boston signed him for $75,000 in 2009, then saw his fastball hit 100 mph. Montas has learned to dial back his fastball and pace himself as a starter, and he showed good durability by making 23 starts in 2013 between two stops. He struggled to minimize damage at times thanks to spotty command, which was worse after the trade, while sitting 91-95 mph and still touching 97 regularly. Montas throws both a slider and curveball, and he'll flash an average breaker with mid-80s velocity and bite, but neither pitch is consistent. He throws a changeup but lacks conviction in it and allowed a .276/.369/.529 line to lefthanded hitters. One club official compared Montas' wide-hipped body to that of Livan Hernandez, implying he will have to work hard to stay in shape. Montas' iffy secondary stuff could push him to the bullpen. For now, he remains a starter and likely moves up to high Class A Winston-Salem in 2014.
The Cuban-born Ravelo signed for $125,000 in 2010 and finally surpassed 100 games or 400 plate appearances for the first time in 2013. He missed part of the 2012 season on the restricted list, then had a lacerated thumb on his left hand in April and an elbow injury in August that cut into his playing time in 2013. When healthy, Ravelo showed a feel for the barrel, gap power and a discerning eye at the plate. Ravelo showed the ability to make adjustments to offspeed stuff. He struggled more against lefthanders with pitchability than with hard-throwing righthanders and likes using the opposite field. Ravelo shows raw power in batting practice but has yet to translate that into over-the-fence power. He's big-bodied and has moved from third base to first. He's a below-average runner on his way to being a baseclogger if he's not careful. If he's the kind of bat-first, power-second hitter who comes into his power later in his career, Ravelo could get interesting. He'll graduate to Double-A Birmingham for 2014.
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